HOW IT ALL BEGAN: The Origins and History of the National Caucus of Labor Committees in New York and Philadelphia (1966-1971)
By Hylozoic Hedgehog for LaRouche Planet
(Cover photo: Tony Papert in white shirt gives the “victory sign” at Low Library during the Columbia Strike in April 1968)
Kirkpatrick Sale’s book SDS was first published in 1973 by Random House; to this day it remains the definitive historical work on SDS. Here Sale describes the origins of the Labor Committee:
The Labor Committee was begun at the [June 1968] East Lansing [SDS] convention by a group of Columbia radicals influenced by an older ex-Trotskyist named Lynn Marcus; the two most prominent younger members were Tony Papert and Steve Fraser, both of whom had been kicked out of PL in that spring for their “heretical” views on the working class. In the fall the group spread out, forming separate labor committees within SDS chapters in Philadelphia, Ithaca, Boston, Chicago, and the West Coast in addition to the central cell in New York.
For a while the Labor Committee was tolerated, especially because it pushed a pro-working-class line within SDS in opposition to what it regarded as the mistaken ideology of PL and its “economism,” or concentrating on narrowly economic issues. But the New York group developed serious differences in the fall with the actionist leadership at Columbia SDS – chiefly over the Labor Committee’s support for the New York City school teachers on strike against community control of schools in black neighborhoods – and it was kicked out of the chapter, a move reaffirmed both by a regional meeting and the December National Council meeting. The Labor Committee continued to function, however, still calling itself part of SDS on the grounds that SDS was a non-exclusionary organization and the expulsion therefore invalid. (514)
What follows is my attempt to fill out the picture Sale outlines.
When Smiling Man from a Dead Planet: The Mystery of Lyndon LaRouche (SMDP) was first written in the mid-1980s, it ignored the early years of the National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC). In How It All Began, I examine the NCLC’s origins in New York and Philadelphia and complete my larger project. Some of the research here first appeared in rough draft on the Factnet website discussion board devoted to the Labor Committee. I participated in Factnet from late January 2009 to June 2011. During that time I greatly benefited from the contributions of other former members. I especially wish to thank a friend and former member (Factnet's "Editrix") for invaluable assistance and LaRouche Planet for making this work available. Though I think it is a safe bet that the Labor Committee will always be a footnote to a footnote to history, I hope it remains enough of an interesting one to merit this modest effort.
MAY/JUNE 2016 NOTE: I have significantly updated certain sections in the electronic versions of both How It All Began and Smiling Man from a Dead Planet. The PDF versions have not changed and are now very outdated and they should be checked against the new electronic updates. I wish here to thank another former member "socialistboomer" for some invaluable archival sources with regard to HIAB in particular. I further recommend a May 1995 lecture by NCLC leader Nancy Spannaus that covers this period as well and is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txKCZNXg76s. She and her husband Ed were active in both the CIPA network and the New York SDS Labor Committee. Her lecture covers the period from 1966 to the first major NCLC split in January/February 1971, the same time examined in How It All Began.
"Hylozoic Hedgehog" is the nom de guerre of a former NCLC member who first joined the LaRouche organization in 1971 and who later worked in the group's Manhattan-based National Office "Intelligence Staff" from 1974 until 1979 when he quit the organization in disgust over its ties to the far right.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN: THE ORIGINS AND HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL CAUCUS OF LABOR COMMITTEES IN NEW YORK AND PHILADELPHIA (1966-1971)
JULY 1966 — JANUARY 1968
FEBRUARY — AUGUST 1968
SEPTEMBER 1968 — MARCH 1969
SUMMER 1967 — APRIL1969
WINTER 1970 — APRIL 1973
. John Lindsay becomes the new mayor of New York.
. Successful New York transit strike led by the famed Transit Workers Union (TWU) leader Mike Quill.
. The National Committee for Independent Political Action (National CIPA) is founded in Chicago. A New York branch entitled West Side CIPA is organized to support an avowed Socialist named James Weinstein in his bid to win election to Congress from New York's 19th Congressional District.
. LaRouche publishes an article in the American Committee for the Fourth International's Bulletin of International Socialism entitled "Tax Landlords, Not People."
. LaRouche ("L. Marcus") begins teaching his first class on "Elementary Marxist Economics" at the Free University of New York.
. LaRouche resigns from Tim Wohlforth's American Committee for the Fourth International (ACFI). LaRouche and his partner Carol Larrabee join James Robertson's Spartacist League.
. The 43 year old LaRouche begins his summer semester "Elementary Marxist Economics" class at the Free University of New York (FUNY), located on 14th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue and right off Union Square.
. "L. Marcus"-Sidney Hook exchange over the issue of "early Marx" is published in the New York Times.
. LaRouche and Carol formally resign from the Spartacist League. For the first time January 1949, LaRouche is no longer a member of a formal Trotskyist grouping.
. HUAC investigation of FUNY.
. At a meeting in LaRouche and Carol's apartment at 65 Morton Street in the West Village, the initial planning begins for what would become West Side CIPA. This gathering marks the beginning of what would become the "SDS Labor Committee" some two years later.
. Some 2,000 people attend a Socialist Scholars' Conference at Columbia University.
. LaRouche and Carol launch West Village CIPA with cadre from his class at FUNY.
. The first West Village CIPA publication, a mimeographed text entitled Second Front against the Vietnam War: Proposal for a City Tax on Landlord's Incomes, is issued.
. Election for 19th Congressional District includes CIPA candidate James Weinstein who is defeated.
. New York CIPA meeting called to discuss building welfare rights movement. West Village CIPA distributes Second Front at the meeting.
. Tony Papert, the head of Columbia's PL/SDS group, leads a sit-in protest against CIA recruitment on campus. Along with Papert, there are 17 more protesters; they include future Labor Committee leaders Bob Dillon, Paul Gallagher, Dick Sober, and Ed Spannaus. Another protester named John Jacobs ("JJ") will become a founding member of Weatherman.
. West Village CIPA publishes LaRouche's pamphlet Third Stage of Imperialism in an edition of 3,000 copies.
. SDS National Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A position paper entitled "The Road to Socialism" by Bob Dillon and Ed Spannaus inspired by LaRouche's ideas is distributed.
. Steve Fraser is sent by the Progressive Labor Party to Philadelphia to develop a PL chapter there.
Bob Dillon begins a five-week course at FUNY entitled "The Origin of the Village Commune in Vietnam: CIA Anthropology in Vietnam."
. Newark riots.
. The West Side Tenants' Union (WSTU) is formed.
. Black high school students protesting outside the headquarters of the Philadelphia Board of Education are attacked by police.
. Violent street protests endorsed by Regional New York SDS take place outside a Manhattan hotel where Lyndon Johnson's Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, is speaking. Mark Rudd is arrested.
. An SDS regional meeting in Princeton, New Jersey, gives its approval for the New York SDS Transit Project proposed by Tony Papert and Steve Komm. In Philadelphia, Steve Fraser begins to organize the first proto-Labor Committee study group with about a dozen members.
. The first meeting of the Fraser study group is held in Philadelphia and marks the beginning of what will become the Philadelphia SDS Labor Committee.
. Columbia SDS Labor Committee demonstration in front of the NY Transit Authority headquarters in support of an expected transit workers strike.
. Regional SDS meeting at New York University (NYU) votes to endorse the SDS Regional Transit Project. Leif Johnson and Steve Komm are chosen as regional coordinators. PL also votes for the resolution.
. The Tet Offensive in Vietnam.
. Mark Rudd tours Cuba as part of an SDS delegation.
. The first issue of The Campaigner is published. The publisher's address is listed as 65 Morton Street.
. Front page article entitled "NY SDS to Organize against Transit Fare Increase" by Leif Johnson in New Left Notes. N.Y. SDS Transit Project members leaflet both a New York City Budget Hearing and a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) hearing to oppose raising the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) fare.
. Independent SDS member Steve Komm backed by Tony Papert's PL chapter at Columbia runs for SDS leader against Mark Rudd. Rudd wins by a vote of 38-33.
. Eugene McCarthy wins 42% of the votes in the New Hampshire primary running on an anti-war platform.
. President Johnson announces he won't seek a second term.
. Martin Luther King assassinated. Riots in Harlem.
. Steve Komm presents his strategy proposal for Columbia SDS that includes his famous "Contingency A."
. Columbia University student strike breaks out. Tony Papert leads the seizure of Low Library.
. New York City police violently remove strikers from various occupied buildings at Columbia.
. Huge student protests break out in Paris.
. Steve Fraser and Tony Papert's document Economism or Socialism, written for a May PLP national conference, is blocked from circulation by PL's leadership. (Economism or Socialism will later be reprinted in the Labor Committee theoretical journal, The Campaigner.) Columbia SDS Labor Committee member Bob Dillon and LaRouche help found the Columbia Summer Liberation School (SLS). LaRouche is the first SLS "professor."
. Tony Papert is expelled from PLP. The Fraser-Papert PL group (approximately 10 to 15 members) now joins the Labor Committee. During this same period, West Side CIPA ceases to exist and the "Marcusites" are now known as the SDS Labor Committee. Around this same time, the New York and Philadelphia SDS Labor Committees become the official publishers of The Campaigner.
. Robert F. Kennedy is murdered after winning the California Democratic primary.
. SDS National Conference held at Michigan State University at East Lansing.
. "Proposal for Building Labor Committee" by the "Philadelphia and New York Labor Committees" published in New Left Notes.
. The first issue of Solidarity, a paper published the "N.Y. Regional SDS Labor Committee," appears with the headline "Crisis in the Garment Center."
. ESSO and Business International are discussed at an SDS meeting at Columbia.
. The Democratic convention in held in Chicago. Street protests result in a massive "police riot" outside the convention. Around this same time Warsaw Pact troops invade Czechoslovakia and crush "Prague Spring."
. The Campaigner is published with the lead article "New Left, 'Local Control' and Fascism."
. The New York City Teachers' Strike begins. The strike is led by United Federation of Teachers (UFT) president Albert Shanker.
. The Labor Committee publishes a pamphlet entitled The New York School Strike by "Tony Perlman" [Tony Papert] and "L. Marcus." That same month, PLP's magazine Progressive Labor publishes a major attack on the Labor Committee entitled "Len Marcus: Guru of Non-Struggle."
. The Labor Committee issues a statement declaring that the "dissolution" order voted by a New York Regional SDS "General Assembly" against the Marcusite NY Regional Labor SDS Committee for supporting the UFT has no standing.
. Richard Nixon wins the presidential election.
. The UFT strike ends with a victory for the union.
. The Hemispheric Conference to End the War in Vietnam held in Montreal.
. Articles about the Labor Committee, including one by Bernardine Dohrn, are published in New Left Notes.
. An SDS National Council meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, votes to approve the dissolution the NY Regional SDS Labor Committee as an SDS-supported project.
. Around this time the Labor Committee begins to receive critical financial support from Myron Niesloss, a wealthy Jewish businessman who had ties to the publication Jewish Currents.
. During a discussion about organizing at the University of Pennsylvania, the idea first arises about the need to formally establish a national organization.
. Tony Papert's article on SDS is published in the Socialist Party's paper New America. On that same day, the Columbia branch of the N.Y. SDS Labor Committee issues a leaflet entitled "How the Anarchists Destroyed the Columbia Strike."
. UFT leader Albert Shanker jailed for 15 days for violating the Taylor Law.
. An "Open Letter" is issued by the N.Y. Regional SDS Labor Committee member and Spartacist League supporter Dave Cunningham protesting Papert's article in New America.
. Student strike at the University of Pennsylvania.
. The Philadelphia police arrest eight members of the Labor Committee for distributing leaflets in front of two West Philadelphia public schools. Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo charges that the Labor Committee planned to blow up public schools.
. A New York SDS Regional Conference refuses to hear a SDS Labor Committee proposal on the New York school system.
. Mark Rudd's proto-Weatherman group tries to break up a "N.Y. SDS Labor Committee" meeting at Columbia University.
. The New York and Philadelphia Labor Committees hold their first national conference at the University of Pennsylvania and create a new organization called the National Caucus of SDS Labor Committees, which will soon become the National Caucus of Labor Committees (NCLC) after the collapse of SDS.
. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Rizzo holds a press conference and accuses the Labor Committee of circulating a terrorist document called Your Manual at its founding meeting.
. Small student protests break out at Temple University in North Philadelphia over Temple's real estate policies.
. An FBI COINTELPRO leaflet called "The Mouse Crap Revolution" attacking Tony Papert and the Labor Committee is anonymously sent to some 219 individuals and New Left organizations in the New York area.
. The New York "Panther 21" are arrested and charged with plotting to blow up department stores, police stations, and even the New York Botanical Gardens.
. Philadelphia police raid Steve Fraser and Richard Borghmann's apartment and claim that they discovered "bomb making" material in and under the refrigerator. The police will later claim that the Labor Committee planned to blow up national monuments in Boston and Philadelphia.
. New America editor Paul Feldman publishes a pro-Labor Committee article entitled "Philadelphia Police Arrest Young Radicals" in New America.
. Steve Fraser, Tony Papert, and George Turner travel to Oakland for unsuccessful joint defense talks with Black Panther Party national leaders Bobby Seale and David Hilliard. Tom Hayden reportedly warns the BPP leaders not to deal with Labor Committee members because they are "police agents."
. SDS national conference in Chicago splits over fight between the PL faction and the National Office/RYM faction. RYM (the Revolutionary Youth Movement) subsequently splits between RYM I (Weatherman) and a Maoist-oriented grouping known as RYM II.
. Mark Rudd convenes a regional "SDS" meeting of his followers at New York University's Loeb Student Center. PL members led by Jeff Gordon try to enter the hall and fighting breaks out at as Rudd's supporters prevent PL from taking part in the meeting.
. The first indication of factional tension in the NCLC as a debate develops over the nature of the "Popular Front."
. Second NCLC national conference held in New York City.
. The "Philosophy 10" course launched for the spring semester at Swarthmore.
. NCLC-backed course on the early Marx offered at Philadelphia's Free University, which is held on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.
. A large SWP/YSA-sponsored Student Mobilization Committee (SMC)-organized anti-war gathering is held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. The small Labor Committee delegation to the conference offers a workshop on "industrial reconversion."
. Ted Gold and other Weatherman die in an explosion in a Greenwich Village town house where they were building bombs.
. Nixon invades Cambodia and triggers a huge student strike against the war.
. Four students killed by National Guard members at Kent State University in Ohio.
. LaRouche briefly addresses a huge anti-war rally held near Philadelphia's Independence Hall. Later that night at Swarthmore, he debates an economics professor and spends the rest of the night talking with students on campus.
. Two students protesting the war are killed by police at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi.
. New Solidarity scheduled to be launched as a national paper; it merges Solidarity, the NY Labor Committee paper, with Crisis, the Philadelphia Labor Committee paper.
. Ken Gibson becomes Newark's first black mayor.
. Confrontation between Steve Fraser and LaRouche at a National Committee meeting. Fraser publicly resigns from the group's ruling body, the National Committee.
. LaRouche issues Menshevism in the Labor Committee.
. The NCLC concludes its third national conference (dubbed "Strategy for Socialism" I) with the election of a new National Committee loyal to the majority faction known as the "Positive Political Tendency." That same day, the Newark Teachers Union goes out on strike.
. The NCLC sponsors a talk by Newark Teachers Union representative Orrie Chambers.
. Expulsion of leading members of the Fraser minority faction.
. Fraser-Borghmann Defense Committee-sponsored letter calling for the establishment of an Independent Commission of Inquiry into the case signed by leading radicals including Eugene Genovese, Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and others, is published in the Letter to the Editor section of The New York Review of Books.
. The NCLC's national conference ("Strategy for Socialism II") is held at the Beacon Hotel on Manhattan's Upper West Side. This is the first conference without the minority.
. A CPUSA front group called TUAD (Trade Unionists for Action and Democracy) opens a Chicago conference dubbed the "Emergency Conference on the 1972 Elections." A Labor Committee delegation attends only to find LaRouche and other members have been forcibly blocked from entering the meeting; members of both the Labor Committee and other left sects inside the hall are forcibly expelled by the CP. On that same trip LaRouche discovers that his former long-time partner Carol is now romantically involved with a British national named Chris White. Carol subsequently leaves LaRouche to go to London to live with White.
. LaRouche sends a series of bitter letters to Carol who is now in London.
. LaRouche turns 50 years old.
. "NEC Statement on the LaRosa [Carol] Situation" issued.
. The first day of the founding conference of the National Unemployed and Welfare Rights Organization (NU-WRO) held at Temple University in Philadelphia. A small group of protesters organized by the Communist Party denounce the conference.
. Coordinated Labor Committee attacks against Communist Party gatherings launched across the country.
. NCLC national conference held at the Statler Hilton Hotel in New York. LaRouche reveals a joint "CIA-KGB" plot that also involves Cuban intelligence (the DGI) and Britain's MI-6 to assassinate him by a "brainwashed" Chris White. LaRouche reveals that a specially trained group of Cuban Communist frogmen assassins are part of the plan. The Cuban hit team was reportedly on a freighter on the Hudson River; they planned to swim ashore to murder him if White failed to kill LaRouche. LaRouche further claimed that White had a poison pill inserted in his bowels and that upon completion of the murder White would have a bowel movement and disgorge the pill which he would then swallow. This claim gave rise to LaRouche's demand that members say the words "CIA Rats Eat Shit" out loud to prove they were not brainwashed like White. Anyone who raises doubts about LaRouche's claims is labeled "subhuman" and a possible brainwash victim/assassin. For more on the Chris White Affair, see http://laroucheplanet.info/pmwiki/pmwiki.php?n=Library.UnityNow7 in Smiling Man from a Dead Planet: The Mystery of Lyndon LaRouche.